Kings, Grizzlies compete for draft lottery position

Ivan Rabb gets an opportunity to show his impressive late-season form to his hometown team on Friday night when the Memphis Grizzlies host the Sacramento Kings in Memphis, Tenn.

The game matches teams jockeying for position in the NBA Draft Lottery. Memphis (21-57) is still in the running for the worst record in the league and Sacramento (25-54) could finish with the fourth-worst mark.

Both teams have experienced signs of encouragement.

Memphis beat Portland in its most recent home game before losing three straight to Western Conference playoff contenders (Utah, Portland and New Orleans) on a just completed trip.

Rabb, the 35th pick of last June’s draft, played his best ball of the season on the trip, taking full advantage of an average of 21.3 minutes per game.

The Sacramento native averaged 8.7 points and 8.0 rebounds in the three road losses, posting a season high in rebounds (13) against the Trail Blazers and points (16) against the Pelicans.

Rabb has taken an unusual approach to the Grizzlies’ constant losing. He has focused on how the team has been faring just when he’s in the game.

He totaled a respectable minus-7 plus/minus in games on the trip that the Grizzlies lost by a total of 55 points.

“I’m just playing hard,” he said. “Whenever I get out there and we are losing, we start coming back or we extend a lead. So me having that confidence and that presence on the court is helping us get better.”

Little has gone right for the Grizzlies this season. They’ve lost seven of their last nine games.

But facing Sacramento and Detroit in their final two home games at least gives them a chance to send their fans into the offseason with a small dose of satisfaction.

Likewise, the Kings are experiencing a run of games against teams outside the playoff picture, which has given them a better chance to compete.

Sacramento opened a four-game trip with an 84-83 win over the Los Angeles Lakers and a 97-94 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

Kings coach Dave Joerger believes the organization is learning things about their young players even in games others would label meaningless.

“We had a fighting chance there at the end,” he said of the loss at Phoenix. “That was a good experience for these guys to be in.”

Sacramento finishes the season against San Antonio and Houston.

A trip to Memphis means a homecoming for Kings veterans Zach Randolph and Vince Carter, although Randolph has battled an illness this month and is unlikely to play.

Randolph, a centerpiece to a seven-year run of Grizzlies postseason appearances that will end this season, enjoyed a warm welcome back when Sacramento visited Memphis in January. He didn’t have a particularly good game (four points, six rebounds) in a 106-88 loss.

Carter, who played the last three seasons for the Grizzlies, had 15 points, all on 3-pointers, in that game. He contributed seven points to Tuesday’s loss at Phoenix.